Smartphone as Mobile Library

Smartphone as Mobile Library May 18, 2019

I really appreciate the “Book Addict’s Defense of the Smartphone” which made the following case:

My point is not that I don’t think that smartphones can cause problems for attention, focus, and interpersonal relationships.  I’ll stipulate that we have not adjusted to the downsides of having the internet – and everything that comes along with the web – in our pockets.

What I am saying is that the advantages of being to store, listen to, and read books –  wherever and whenever – outweigh all the smartphone negatives.

The audiobook and the e-book, purchased (or borrowed) and read/listened to on a smartphone, is the game changer for book lovers.

Strangely, the wonderful opportunities to spend more time reading books that smartphones have enabled has gone largely uncelebrated. Academics – we people of the book – should be overjoyed about the potential of the smartphone to increase reading time.

We should be making the argument that the problem with the smartphone is not the device, but how people use it.  Delete that Facebook app.  Get rid of Twitter.  Take the games off the phone.  Maybe even remove your e-mail accounts.

Keep the Kindle and Audible apps.  (Or whatever e-book and audiobook app that you use).

Think only of the smartphone as a reading device and a bookshelf.

Do you use your phone to read books?

This fits my experience. I’ve read a book related to a book project on my phone in the checkout line at the supermarket. I’ve listened to an audiobook while I drove three hours to a conference – an audiobook that was directly relevant to what I was slated to present on when I arrived! I’ve enjoyed more fiction listening in the car as I go to and from work. I’ve enjoyed the ability to read a book in German and easily look up words I didn’t know or couldn’t remember from within the ebook app rather than having to consult something separate.

This is not to deny the downside, as illustrated by these recent articles:

The Chronicle of Higher Education had a great article about digital distraction in the classroom. The New York Times had a series of opinion pieces about privacy in the digital age, part of what they are calling The Privacy Project. But despite what James Martin says, the notion of privacy is pretty much unknown in the Bible or anywhere else in the ancient world.

When it comes to data about teen use of technology, this statistic is sobering:

PEW tried to assess just how heavily cell phones are being used by asking teens to classify their use into descriptive categories – almost constantly, several times a day, less often. The almost constantly description rose from 24% in 2014 to 45% in 2018.

Nevertheless, I’m inclined to agree that the key issue is how the devices are used. What if we encourage more reading/listening, rather than discouraging social media and devices per se?

Also relevant, here is an article from a few years ago about academic reading on a Kindle. I don’t own or use a Kindle, although I do use the Kindle app on my phone sometimes. Should I have a Kindle? Why or why not?

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  • macsnafu

    Technology makes it easier for people to do what they want to do. So we should be concerned, not with the technology itself, but with what people really want or desire. Why do people want to be connected to their phones/internet/social media so much? Answer that question, and then you can better understand how to deal with it.

  • Scurra

    The reason to have a Kindle is that you can actually read it outdoors without needing to find shade… 🙂
    I am still a little disappointed that the potential of eInk was lost when the iPad became the default for tablets – I understand why it happened, and don’t think it was necessarily a bad thing, but we lost what could have been a better tool simply because it was focused. Tablets are averagely good at everything but they aren’t better at anything than a specialist device.

  • I have a Kindle Paperwhite. I like it as it good size for reading text as it is smaller than my iPad. It is very mobile and holds a charge for hours of reading, as well as recharging fast. I also make use of my libraries eservices. I have books checked out on the Kindle. I had a Kindle 2 way back and had delayed replacing it. I’ve found that I’m almost reading more on it than paper at times.

  • Ursula L

    If you already have a smart phone or tablet that you are comfortable reading on, there is little reason to buy a dedicated e-reader.

    If you don’t have a smart phone or tablet, you are better off buying a full-feature smartphone or tablet, rather than a kindle or nook tablet, because their options are rather limited, and not all android apps are available through the stores on a nook or kindle tablet.

    The reason to buy a kindle or nook is if you want to have an e-ink screen to read on. Yes, it’s black and white. But there is no glare, you can read in any light (especially since all models now have backlights.) The other reason to buy a dedicated e-in reader is the battery life. It is amazing, so if it’s a stormy Saturday, and you just want to cuddle up and spend the whole weekend reading, you can do so easily, particularly if you turn off the wifi when you’re not actually using it, and don’t use the backlight unless you need it. You can go a week between charges if you’re careful (not limiting reading, but limiting turning the wifi and backlight on to when you actually need them) rather than having the charge running out by the end of the day.

    I think it is worthwhile, for myself, to have a dedicated reader. So I have a nook glow. I prefer the nook because I can get service at my local B&N, and because the epub files they use are smaller than the files a kindle uses, so you get more books for the same amount of memory. In addition, the employees of B&N in brick and mortar stores have better working conditions than Amazon’s warehouse workers, for whom there are a lot of known labor issues, and I prefer to support an employer that treats its workers somewhat better.

    But don’t bother with the tablet versions of a nook or kindle. That means, anything with a color screen. If you want a color LED screen on a tablet, buy a full feature android tablet or an iPad.